Not everyone can be confident, energetic and gorgeous in pregnancy ... and that's perfectly okay.
Have you ever noticed the difference between the old and new editions of What to Expect When You’re Expecting? I’ll save you having to google it. Here’s the first edition cover, published in 1984:
And here’s the fifth edition, from 2016:
If I didn’t know better, I’d assume that being pregnant has gotten a lot easier in the last 30-odd years. Either that, or it’s our expectations about how pregnancy should affect a woman’s life that have shifted. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s not the first one.
Back in 1984 when this iconic pregnancy guide was first published, it seems to have been normal to portray a pregnant woman as somebody who’s (understandably!) tired, and needs to take a little break.
The 2016 pregnant woman doesn’t need a break. She probably doesn’t even want one! She’s doing just fine — pregnancy hasn’t slowed her down one bit. She’s still every ounce as confident, energetic, and gorgeous as she’s always been.
I’m not saying pregnant women shouldn’t be confident, far from it. Some pregnant women don’t even feel a blip in their energy levels. And in fairness, pregnancy usually does make your hair look that shiny, so that detail is realistic. Still, the difference between the two images bothers me. More and more, people seem to approach pregnancy with the attitude that it shouldn’t be any different from every other stage of life.
Pregnancy doesn’t have to bring the rest of your life to a grinding halt for nine months, but it can. Usually, it slows you down a little bit, and you have to lower your standards, tweak your expectations, make some changes. That’s pretty normal.
Talking to pregnant women, I find that so many of them share the same fear: “Am I doing enough? Should I be doing more for my family?” All of us want to be Fifth Edition pregnant mama. Actually, we feel like we should be her. We’re shown so many images of this woman who’s full of pep and confidence that when we don’t match up, we feel like we’ve come up short. If pregnancy does slow us down, we wonder whether we’ve somehow failed.
I guess I just wish there was a little more acceptance for women who do need to slow down during pregnancy — or who choose to take those nine months as a time to not push herself to keep up with the rest of the non-pregnant world.
This image of the empowered pregnant mother who feels as great as ever is beautiful, but let’s not forget another, quieter kind of empowerment: the woman who’s supported enough by her family and community that she’s able to give herself what she needs, and not wear herself out trying to live up to outside expectations. That’s beautiful too, and if that’s what our pregnancy looks like, we have every right to be proud.